This disc was recorded back in 1996 and was first released on
Albany TROY 198/Olympia OCD 683. It now appears under licence
by Divine Art in their Diversions marque. Given the large number
of labels run by Divine Art we are soon going to have to come
up with a collective noun. In any case it restores Goldstone
and Clemmow's terrific all-British recordings back to wide circulation,
and does so in some style with an attractively laid out booklet
The disc starts with a performance of Elgar's arrangement for
piano-duet of his Serenade for Strings. It was published
in Leipzig in 1893, as was the string version, the year after
the piece had been composed. So this 'domestic market' version
was in no way an afterthought, but contemporary. It makes for
most diverting listening, allowing one - as is so often the
case in such circumstances - to hear the harmonic development
with that much more immediacy. Certainly the slow movement may
lack a little something in pathos, but not, I think, in nobility
or even, in a curious way, in intimacy.
Frank Bury (1910-1944) wrote his Prelude and Fugue in E flat
for two pianos. A student of Gordon Jacob and later (of conducting)
Bruno Walter, Bury was killed during the Second World War. His
Prelude is genial, somewhat pastoral, and then it’s followed
by a brief but richly voiced Fugue, full of interesting contrapuntal
detail. It’s the first piece of his to have been recorded.
It fits into the genre very well, and also reminds one of those
many English composers who wrote Bachian piano works in the
1920s and 1930s - not least for the Bach Book of Harriet
Cohen, of which Bury’s piece offers, at a remove, a fine
Edgar Bainton (1880-1956) is represented by his Miniature
Suite for piano duet, fresh and light and full of the spirit
of the dance.
The rest of the disc is taken up with Holst. First we hear the
composer’s own version for two pianos of his Elegy
(In Memoriam William Morris), taken from the Cotswolds’
Symphony of 1899-1900 (Naxos;
This rises to the crest of its gravity to considerably moving
effect, rather more so in fact than the full orchestral version
- at least that’s my own experience. But the main item
in the programme, the pièce de résistance,
is The Planets. This is the composer’s two-piano
version, not the one for piano duet. I believe this two piano
arrangement is the version that Richard Markham and David Nettle
recorded for Saga Psyche LP many years ago, but which I’ve
unfortunately not heard.
Goldstone and Clemmow play The Planets with genuine percussive
intensity. They manage to convey the writing, on its pianistic
lines, as a valid musical experience in itself. It’s hardly
intended to supplant the orchestral version but it does supplement
it and acts as an appendix, much as Bury’s piece did,
for those who wish to immerse themselves in its intricacies.
Such will be devoid of the sense of orchestral colour evoked
by Holst, as well, obviously, as the chorus. But it is quite
remarkable how ‘well clothed’ this apparent skeleton
remains, but - more particularly - how one concentrates much
more on the essential core of the music than in that sense of
fantasy or colour.
This excellent disc thus presents an enjoyably varied programme
offering a revivifying slant on British piano music.
see also review by John